Church leaders at the first meeting of a new Diocesan Synod, held on Saturday 17 October at Ashville College in Harrogate, have called on congregations to do more to support refugees.
The newly constituted 'parliament' of the diocese. elected for a three year term, also voted to get behind a blood and organ donation campaign, agreed next year's budget and debated Mission and Pastoral structures for the five new Episcopal Areas of the diocese.
In his Presidential Address, Bishop Nick Baines (pictured right with Chaplain, Revd Lynn Thorius), gave a summary of recent developments as the diocese continues to take shape, setting local concerns in a global context. Looking ahead to the refugee debate later in the morning, he said, “The plight of refugees is desperate. … the abuse by some should not blind us to the appalling choices faced by millions of people in this world. How we respond to their plight matters enormously.”
Refugee crisis – Synod calls on church to act
Synod members unanimously backed a motion proposed by the Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth (pictured left), calling on parishes across the diocese to respond to the refugee crisis by considering how they might support refugees locally, how they might join in the debate about refugee support in the UK and how the diocese might respond in conjunction with local authorities and charities.
Bishop Toby told Synod, “Our Christian faith demands that we don’t simply turn away. There is a special place in our story, in the Biblical story, for refugees and other migrants. In some ways it is written into our DNA as people of faith. We know that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees in Egypt fleeing from a brutal tyrant. Where is God in all this? The answer is very clear - God is in the ‘jungle’ in Calais, God is on the Hungarian border, God is on the frail boats trying to reach Lesbos.”
Several spoke in support of the motion. The Revd Amos Kasibante, (pictured right) priest in Charge of Harehills and Burmantofts, reminded members that it was the poorest countries that had the greatest number of refugees arriving.
Assistant Bishop, David Hawkins (a former rector of St George’s Leeds), (pictured left) said that there were long term challenges including, for future generations, “the exponential effect of climate change and massive movements of people, particularly into temperate climates like our own – then the world order will be very different.”
Parish Share to rise by 1.75% as Synod agrees 2016 Budget
Parish share will rise across the diocese by 1.75%, a flat rate increase on this year’s levels, as Synod backed a deficit budget which would allow for £1.18 million to be drawn from reserves as the transition from three historic dioceses to one new one continues.
Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance, Bishop Tom Butler (pictured right with Simon Baldwin), said that the budget would enable the diocese to maintain its mission and ministry with no reduction in the current 332 full time (equivalent) paid clergy posts. At the same time the budget also would allow for a £250k increase in Education spending.Stipends have gone up by 1.75% and Bishop Tom emphasised that Share (67% of income), pays for parish clergy.
Explaining the budget figures in more detail, Simon Baldwin of the Board of Finance, emphasised that in many areas savings were being made with more still to be found. Moving to a single central Leeds Office would be one of the factors, he said, in making savings. In a vote, the 2016 Budget was given unanimous approval.
Synod calls for national church backing for blood donations campaign
The Synod has sent its first motion to General Synod for national debate, after backing a call for churches to encourage their members to become blood donors.
Kay Brown (pictured left), from Allerton Deanery Synod, introduced a motion that was later carried with a large majority, calling on every church in the diocese to encourage members to consider becoming a blood donor and registering as an organ donor as part of their Christian giving. Churches will also be asked to contact their local Blood Transfusion Service with a view to offering their premises as a centre for blood donation.
“What if the church saw blood donation as part of its giving?", Kay Brown asked members. “As a country we need 7000 units of blood every day. Only 3% of the population are blood donors … and another 225,000 donors are needed to meet the needs of our country. A thousand people die every year waiting for a suitable organ donation.”
Church leaders also voted in favour of a ‘follow-on’ motion from Sallie Bassham (pictured right) of Ewecross Deanery, calling on General Synod to invite all Anglican churches throughout England to encourage Christians to become blood and organ donors. She told Synod that she had been the recipient of a kidney transplant, and said, “I think it’s so important that this motion should go onto General Synod so that Christians elsewhere will be encouraged to be organ and blood donors. .. I am one of the lucky ones. Currently there are more than 5000 people waiting for a kidney transplant.”
In other business it was confirmed that the Chair of the House of Clergy would be the Revd Canon Tony Macpherson of Wakefield Cathedral, and the Chair of the House of Laity would be Canon Anne Nicholl of Leeds City Team Ministry.
The Archdeacon of Leeds, Ven Paul Hooper, steered through a motion approving the constitution of new Area Mission and Pastoral Committees which will begin work next year. Amendments were accepted from the Revd John Hartley, clarifying membership of the committees which will have delegated responsibilities for keeping arrangements for pastoral care in each Episcopal Area under review, making recommendations to the diocesan bishop.